The federal retirement claims backlog is up 56 percent since December, partly because the Office of Personnel Management received more than 20,000 new federal retirement applications last month alone, according the agency’s latest figures.
OPM significantly underestimated the number of new claims in February, expecting 5,600 claims but actually receiving 20,374 applications. That added to the current backlog, which now stands at 41,103 claims, a 14 percent increase in the last two months.
New applications usually pour in at the end and beginning of every year. In January, OPM received 22,187 such claims, about what the agency expected for that month. But February 2013 marked a 218 percent increase in new filings over February 2012, when OPM received 6,415 claims for the month. Ongoing budget uncertainty in agencies as well as federal employees’ fears over reduced pay and benefits could be factors in the retirement spike. Human resources experts and other government observers have predicted a federal “retirement tsunami” for at least a decade that has not fully materialized yet.
Despite the increased backlog, OPM continues to make progress on processing retirement claims. The backlog is down 33 percent since January 2012. And the agency processed 3,833 more retirement claims last month than it expected to. OPM is hoping it can whittle down the current backlog to 26,578 retirement claims by the end of March.
Many federal retirees still wait several months, and sometimes years, for their applications to be fully or correctly processed. OPM administers benefits for 2.5 million federal retirees and processes about 100,000 new claims annually.